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18 Oct, 2019 09:24

Puigdemont appears before Belgian authorities over extradition as Catalonia burns, general strike begins

Puigdemont appears before Belgian authorities over extradition as Catalonia burns, general strike begins

Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan pro-independence leader currently in exile in Belgium, has met with the prosecutor general in Brussels following the reactivation of his European arrest warrant by Spanish authorities.

Belgian prosecutors will have to decide whether or not to accede to Spain’s extradition request so the exiled former leader can faces charges of sedition and embezzlement of public funds. 

For his part, Puigdemont said he appeared before Belgian authorities for the third time voluntarily and that he is cooperating fully with them, while disputing whether he would receive a fair trial if he was extradited to Spain.

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The main thrust of Puigdemont’s case to Belgian authorities centers around recent comments by Supreme Court judge Manuel Marchena, which, the leader’s legal time will argue, indicate that Spain intends to try him in a military tribunal. 

Marchena said Wednesday that Spanish authorities would have difficulty in trying Puigdemont and his remaining supporters in exile, as 13 of the 15 magistrates that make up the criminal division of the General Council of the Judiciary were already involved in the conviction of the initial nine leaders. This would preclude them from coordinating Puigdemont’s trial and the lack of civilian judges would necessitate a military tribunal. 

Catalonia has descended into widespread unrest following the conviction of nine pro-independence leaders from the region’s failed 2017 independence bid, with a cumulative prison sentence of almost 100 years handed down.

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There have been repeated scuffles and skirmishes on the streets, between pro-independence protesters and police, for four consecutive nights. The unrest is expected to gather pace after a general strike began on Friday morning and pro-independence leaders called for a rally against the Supreme Court’s sentencing.

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